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Sphynx Cat

Height: 8-10 inches
Weight: 10-15 pounds
Lifespan: 8-14 years
Colors: White, black, red, brown, lavender, bicolor, calico, tabby, tortoiseshell, pointed, mink
Suitable for: Large families, those looking for a dog-like cat
Temperament: Loving, friendly, outgoing, mischievous, playful, talkative, needy

There are few animals as instantly recognizable as the Sphynx cat. This hairless beauty is adorable, cuddly, and incredibly friendly, making it a distinctive pet that’s fun to own.

They’re not without their drawbacks, however. They’re strictly an indoor cat, as they aren’t built to handle harsh weather (and for a Sphynx, even a mild, sunny day counts as harsh weather). They’re also extremely needy, so they’re not a good fit for anyone who’s never home.

While everyone can identify a Sphynx without issue, relatively few people have actually owned or interacted with one. If you’re considering bringing one of these cats into your home, but you’d like to learn a little more about them before you do, the guide below will walk you through everything that you need to know about these fantastic pets.

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Sphynx Kittens — Before You Buy

sphynx kittens
Image Credit: mjlovesmm, Pixabay
Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

Sphynx stay kitten-like well into adulthood, so the way they behave while young will give you a good idea of how they’ll act once they’re a bit more mature. However, they’re even more hyperactive and distractable as kittens.

Expect your kitten to be in near-constant motion — except when they decide that your lap makes for a prime snuggling spot. They will chase after anything that moves, including string, feather toys, or your feet.

They do take their snuggling seriously, though. These cats love to give and receive affection, so if you’re particular about maintaining your personal bubble, they may not be the best choice for you.

They also require a great deal of attention — they’ll demand it, in fact. If you bring a Sphynx home, then congratulations, you just got yourself a part-time job as a toy thrower or wrestling partner.

Eventually, these little cats will grow up — physically, at least. However, they’ll keep that playful, inquisitive spirit their entire lives, so if you don’t instantly fall in love with one of these kittens, keep looking. You’ll only have more of the same in store if you bring one home.

What’s the Price of Sphynx Kittens?

There’s a reason that you probably haven’t encountered many Sphynx in your life — they’re incredibly expensive.

Prices start in the $1,500 range, and they only go up from there. In fact, you’ll only pay that little if you can find a reputable breeder who’s just starting out and willing to take less money in exchange for establishing their reputation.

If you want one with a premium pedigree, you’ll have to go through an established breeder. In that case, the price could easily top $6,000, and it could even be quite a bit more than that if you want a show-quality cat.

Given that there’s big money in selling these cats, it’s not surprising that you’ll find some breeders who are less than reputable. To weed them out, ask for references, and tour their facilities if you can. These cats should be friendly and welcoming, even to strangers, so if they’re not, it’s a big red flag.

As you might expect, you’re unlikely to find a cat this valuable in a shelter or through a rescue group. You’ll almost certainly have to pay for one, so start saving your nickels and dimes.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Sphynx Cats

1. Surprisingly Enough, They’re Not Hypoallergenic

You’d expect a hairless cat to be hypoallergenic, and while the Sphynx comes close, they’re not completely safe for allergy sufferers.

It’s not actually a cat hair that causes allergies to act up — it’s cat dander, and the Sphynx still produces some of that despite their almost total lack of hair. They’re much less likely to irritate sensitive respiratory systems than other cats, but there’s no guarantee.

You can mitigate the danger somewhat by bathing them regularly, but even then, you may find yourself sniffling and sneezing around these animals.

2. They’re Not Completely Hairless

Although they look completely bald, Sphynxes are actually covered with fine fur, not unlike suede or the skin of a peach. It gives them a wonderful texture, but it may be surprising if you were expecting pure skin-on-skin contact when picking one up.

They don’t have whiskers or eyelashes, though, which can be jarring when you first notice it. However, the lack of those features doesn’t seem to bother these cats, as they function fine without them.

3. Come in a Variety of Colors and Patterns

These cats are full of surprises, as another thing you wouldn’t expect out of a hairless animal is the ability to sport a variety of colors and patterns.

Sphynxes manage to pull this off, however, as their skin itself is pigmented, giving them a variety of colorful appearances. You can find Sphynx in just about any color or pattern you desire, including solid, calico, tortoiseshell, and more.

You can even find a black Sphynx cat if you look hard enough!

Sphynx
Image Credit: Nickolas Titkov, Flickr

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A Brief History of Sphynxes

Hairless cats existed before Sphynxes came along, but they were always accidents. You’d have a bald cat here or there, but they wouldn’t stick around long. The Sphynx was the first cat breed that was deliberately designed to be hairless.

A random genetic mutation led to the birth of three hairless cats in Toronto in 1966. The breeders who owned the cats fell in love with their new bald pets and decided to try to breed more cats that shared the mutation.

They weren’t immediately successful, as they had a limited genetic pool to draw from. This caused unforeseen genetic abnormalities in many cats, and quite a few of the early kittens didn’t survive due to the limitations placed on them by their mutations.

Ultimately, though, they managed to create cats that would consistently create bald offspring. The adorable genetic abnormality quickly captured the attention of cat lovers in both Canada and the United States, causing the Sphynx’s popularity to skyrocket in a short period of time.

The Sphynx is much more popular in North America than other parts of the world, but they’re starting to grow in popularity in Europe. Given their health issues and exorbitant price tag, though, there’s likely a hard cap on just how mainstream these cats can become.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Sphynx

Sphynxes are some of the friendliest and most loving cats in the world, with many people comparing them to dogs in terms of demeanor. These are cats that will greet you at the door as soon as you get home, then follow you around the house until you leave again.

They’re welcoming toward strangers as well. They won’t run and hide under the bed as soon as guests arrive, choosing instead to come out and greet them with enthusiasm. After all, new people are just new opportunities to get petted.

Don’t expect to have much peace and quiet with a Sphynx around, though. These cats are real chatterboxes, and they’ll talk to you whenever you’re around (and when you’re not, they’ll constantly be asking where you are).

These cats are intelligent and equally curious, two things that can sometimes work to their detriment. They’ll get into everything in your home, so don’t be surprised to come home to find that your kitchen counters have all been rearranged.

However, that brainpower makes them easy to train as well, and many people have actually taught their Sphynxes how to fetch and perform other dog-like tricks.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better family-friendly cat than the Sphynx. They love everyone, including small children, and you may find yourself breaking up fights among your kids over whose turn it is to cuddle with the cat.

They need quite a bit of attention and don’t do well alone, so they’ll fit right in with a large family. Sphynxes are perfectly happy to bounce from lap to lap, soaking up as much affection as possible before moving on to their next mark.

Unlike many other codependent animals, they’re not prone to becoming overly attached to particular members of the family. You won’t have to worry about them becoming territorial over a single person’s lap.

If you’re the type who believes that animals don’t belong on the furniture, you may not get along well with a Sphynx. These cats love to climb into bed with you, and you’ll likely find them under the covers when you wake up in the morning.

All of this affection may sound good, but be sure you can provide the cat with the attention that they need. These are incredibly social creatures, and they don’t do well on their own. If you’re not going to be home often, it would be cruel to adopt such a needy animal.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

Sphynxes adore just about everyone they come in contact with, including dogs. Given that they are “dog-like” in their demeanor, it would make sense that they would consider your canine a kindred spirit.

That’s not to say that you can just toss one of these cats into a dog-heavy household and expect it to thrive, however. Both the cat and the dog should be well-socialized and slowly acclimated to each other before being left alone.

Things often go smoothest when the cat is already established in the household and the dog is introduced as a puppy. This gives the Sphynx the opportunity to establish itself and teach the pup who’s boss; you don’t want the relationship going the other way.

They can get along with other pets as well, but only to a point. They’re still cats, after all, so they probably won’t play nicely with your parakeet or hamster.

They get along with other cats well, but they’ll do best with another Sphynx. That gives them a ready-made target for their natural codependence.

Sphynx
Image Credit: Dmitry Makeev, Wikimedia Commons

The Purr-fect Therapy Cat?

Sphynxes are often used as therapy and companion animals because of their intensely loyal and affectionate nature. They make great mascots for hospitals and rehab centers, as they’re warm-hearted and welcoming to strangers and family members.

They tend to be calm while being playful and affectionate. That’s a rare mix, as most other affectionate animals can be overbearing, making them a potential hazard to have around people with mobility issues and similar concerns.

The breed’s fierce intelligence also makes them extremely empathetic, as they can pick up on their owner’s moods and react accordingly. That means they’ll come up to you and offer love whenever they notice you’re feeling down (although to be fair, they’ll come up to you and offer love regardless of how you’re feeling).

As much as they thrive in large families, their natural empathy makes them wonderful companions for single people as well. You’ll never know a friend as loyal and dependable as your Sphynx, and they’ll give you all the devotion that you’d expect from a dog, with a fraction of the slobber.

If you feel like you could benefit from having a Sphynx as a therapy cat, remember to ask your mental health professional for a “prescription” for an emotional support animal. A simple letter from a qualified therapist will entitle you to all sorts of protection from discrimination, ensuring that you and your Sphynx will never have to be separated.

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Things to Know When Owning a Sphynx

If you’re looking to own a Sphynx for the first time, there’s a good chance that you haven’t spent much time around these animals. While most of their needs are the same as any other cat breed, they have a few unique ones that you should know about before bringing one home.

Below, we’ll walk you through important things to consider before you adopt one of these wrinkly wonders.

Food & Diet Requirements

Due to their lack of hair, Sphynxes have to work harder to keep their bodies warm. As a result, they go through a large number of calories, which need to be replaced. You’ll need to feed these cats more than you would other breeds, so take that into consideration before adding one to your home.

Their diet should be primarily meat-based, so look for a food that’s extremely high in protein. It’s nice if it has fruits and veggies and other quality foods, but those are a distant second to real, high-quality meat.

The meat should come from the choicest cuts of the animal too, so avoid anything with meat by-products in it. These are low-grade cuts of meat that are often taken from dead or diseased animals, and you definitely don’t want your cat eating them.

We recommend mixing a wet food with a kibble for your Sphynx. Not only will this give them more calories, but the kibble will also help clean their teeth. You may also consider experimenting with a raw food diet that you make yourself, but ask your vet for guidance before you do.

All this being said, don’t overfeed your Sphynx. You don’t want them becoming obese, as that’s terrible for their health. However, if you feed them a high-quality diet and give them all the exercise they desire, it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep them slim and trim.

Exercise 🐈

Sphynxes are extremely playful animals, so it’s not difficult to give them all the exercise that they need. In fact, they’ll likely insist upon it, so all you’ll have to do is oblige them.

Their hairlessness makes them unsuitable for outdoor living, so you can’t let them out to run around and chase birds. That means you’ll have to take their exercise needs into your own hands. If you provide them with plenty of toys, they’ll play to their heart’s content, giving them the exercise they need and you a little bit of entertainment.

If you don’t think that you’re capable of providing your Sphynx with sufficient exercise, you may need to bring in another animal (preferably another Sphynx). If one of these cats finds a suitable playmate, they can wrestle and chase each other for hours.

They’re also fairly good at entertaining themselves, provided that they have enough toys and room to move. Still, they won’t get nearly as much exercise as they would with a playmate around to challenge them.

Sphynxes are naturally gifted athletes, so you may want to invest in the tallest cat tree that you can find. Otherwise, they may decide that your curtains look suitable for climbing.

sphynx outdoors
Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

Training 🧶

While the idea of training a cat may seem like a pipe dream, Sphynxes are both extremely intelligent and eager to please, making them prime training material.

Many Sphynxes have been taught to do basic tricks, like fetching or shaking, and they can pick up most commands fairly quickly. It’s easiest if you’re trying to teach them to do something that they’ve already shown a predisposition for, though.

When training your Sphynx, always use positive reinforcement. These are sensitive animals, and if you punish them, they’ll likely withdraw, completely defeating the purpose. However, you don’t have to always lure them with treats, as they’ll almost certainly respond favorably to more affection.

This extends to behavior modification as well. If your cat is doing something that you don’t like (such as clawing up the furniture), then using punitive measures likely won’t solve the problem. Instead, redirect their attention to a suitable activity (like scratching up their cat tree), and reward them when they behave in a manner that you approve of.

Training a cat isn’t as easy as training a dog, but you won’t find a more obedient feline than the Sphynx. It’s an excellent pet for first-time owners and experienced cat lovers alike.

Grooming ✂️

Everything that you might assume about a hairless cat could well be wrong, as logic would dictate that a cat with no fur would be extremely low-maintenance. That’s not the case, however, as Sphynxes require quite a bit of grooming.

While you don’t need to brush them, they will need to be bathed quite often — at least once or twice a week. This is to keep their natural oils balanced, which will help prevent skin problems, not to mention keeping oil stains off your furniture. Be sure to scrub between all the folds of skin, as bacteria like to hide in those nooks and crannies.

They also have more earwax than other breeds, so you’ll need to clean out their ears at least once a week. You’ll also want to brush their teeth daily if you can, and trim their nails as needed.

Trimming a Sphynx’s nails isn’t quite the same as it is with other breeds, as they tend to accumulate oil and debris under their claws. You may be able to find specialty grooming tools designed specifically for use on Sphynxes that can help with this chore.

These cats don’t tolerate the cold well, as you might expect. Once the mercury starts dropping, you may want to start putting your cat in a sweater or other clothing to help them stay warm.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Sphynxes aren’t prone to a wide array of genetic diseases, with only hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, mitral valve dysplasia, and congenital myasthenic syndrome cropping up with any frequency.

However, they’re susceptible to quite a few environmental conditions, such as skin cancer, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant about their care. They can get sunburned if allowed to stay in the sun too long, which is why you should keep them inside (or covered up if they do venture outdoors).

Kittens are also more likely to develop respiratory issues than other breeds. As a result, many breeders will refuse to release the cats until they’re at least 14 weeks old, which is almost twice as long as other cats are likely to be kept.

They also develop skin problems more often than other breeds, such as rashes and fungal infections. That’s why bathing them frequently is so important, but it’s equally important that you dry them thoroughly to prevent fungi from forming.

Ultimately, Sphynxes are prone to more health issues than many other breeds, but the good thing is that most of their problems aren’t too severe (so are unlikely to be too expensive). As long as you take them in for regular checkups, you should be able to stay on top of any problems that may arise.

Minor Conditions
  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions
  • Fungal infections
Serious Conditions
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Mitral valve dysplasia
  • Congenital myasthenic syndrome
  • Skin cancer
  • Respiratory issues

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Male vs. Female

The male Sphynx tends to be a bit bigger than the female, but it’s not a huge difference — usually a few pounds and an inch or two. This will be a medium-sized cat, regardless of gender.

Males also tend to be bigger cuddle bugs, although females are certainly no slouches in that regard. You should get all the affection that you can handle from your Sphynx, no matter whether you bring home a boy or a girl.

Females often prefer affection on their terms, though, whereas males will take it however they can get it. A lady may wander off mid-petting, while boys will likely just sit there and soak up as much love as you’re willing to dish out.

Females are usually better hunters, which means that they also love to play more than the males. If you have one of each, don’t be surprised if the male snuggles up in your lap while the female prefers to constantly chase a string or bat a ball.

Ultimately, the differences between the two sexes are slight, but they’re definitely there. You should be completely thrilled with your Sphynx, regardless of which gender you adopt, though.

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Final Thoughts

There aren’t many animals, no matter the species, that are as affectionate and playful as the Sphynx. These cats love to goof around and cuddle in equal amounts, and when they’re not running around the house at top speed, they’ll likely be curled up in your lap.

They’re not for everyone, though. They can be expensive, both to purchase and to own, as they’re prone to a few health conditions that may run up a small fortune in vet bills. You also can’t let them go outside, as their lack of hair makes them poorly-suited for the elements.

If you want a cat that’s different from your garden-variety calico yet is loving and entertaining, you can’t go wrong with a Sphynx. You may decide to get one of these cats in order to have a pet that stands out, but there’s a good chance that once you own a Sphynx, you’ll never go back to owning another breed again.


Featured Image: Dmitry Makeev, Wikimedia Commons